Oh, boy, are we looking for a "sun-drenched elsewhere!"
This was our third day in a row of rain and overcast skies on our way
through Alaska and Canada as we snowbirds head south for the winter.
The mountains/hills were even more obscured by
clouds today. This scene is just east of Whitehorse.
After months of predominantly cold, wet weather we're a little desperate for some
warmth and sunshine.
We would have stayed in Whitehorse another night if it had been warmer
and drier. We’re kind of in a hurry to get to the Lower 48 now. I doubt we’ll
stop to do much of anything touristy the rest of the way through Canada
unless the weather improves significantly in the next few days.
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT
It took us a little over five hours to drive from our campground in
Whitehorse to our campground in Watson Lake, Yukon, a distance of 271
miles. We made several short stops for road construction, lunch, potty breaks, etc.
We could have driven
farther but we wanted to stay in Watson Lake overnight -- not for
nostalgia's sake (ha!), just convenience.
Colorful banners in Watson Lake
Since we'd been a
captive audience there for five days in June we knew we could get
a campsite with water and electricity for a decent price again at Tag's
RV Park behind the Tempo gas station. We knew we had a good place to
walk Cody and ride our bikes this afternoon/evening if the weather
cleared a little bit.
What we didn't know
was how far we'd have to drive east of Watson Lake this afternoon if we
kept going to find another
suitable campsite with electricity. Towns are few and far between on the
Alaska Highway. Since the camper hasn't had a chance to dry out yet,
we're trying to get sites with electricity as much as possible on the
way through Canada instead of boondocking.
ROUTE: all on the Alaska Hwy., going more east than south
Here are two map
The Milepost website with the part we
drove today highlighted in yellow:
Whitehorse to Teslin
Teslin to Watson Lake
If you look closely at the map directly above you'll see that we crossed
into British Columbia for about
42 miles, then back in the Yukon.
We'll cross back and forth between those two provincial borders several
TRAFFIC: still fairly light all day but increasing as we
get into slightly more populated territory. We saw more RVs and
trucks today than yesterday. Some of the RVs were headed to
Alaska, not away from it. What's with that?
gradually improving as we travel south and east in less remote areas.
There were some rough spots but
most were marked with orange flags. Jim drove the whole way today, averaging
about 58 MPH when we were moving. That's an improvement over the slow
speed we had to drive the past two days.
We had to stop a couple minutes for a bridge construction project over
the Liard River:
We watched the workmen as we waited for a large truck and other vehicles
to drive slowly through the narrow lane that was open.
We arrived just as the red light turned green for us on the other road project – the
bad washout at Canyon Creek/KM 1003 that shut the road down for five
days in June and stranded us in Watson Lake. No one was working at that
It didn’t appear that much has been done at Canyon Creek since June. The badly
washed-out section of pavement is still badly washed out and coned off:
Traffic is still directed over the westbound lane (above) and the dirt/rock
pioneer road they built in June is still being used.
The badly bent old culvert (below, right) is still lying by the side of
the road, as is much of the debris that washed down to the road
from the flooding:
Same "pioneer road" we used in June
The only thing new that we saw today is a parallel detour road with a steel
bridge (two photos above) but it wasn’t being used today. I guess they direct traffic to it
when they’re working on the highway.
We identified another place today where a culvert had been replaced and new
pavement laid, as well as the locations of two nasty mudslides in that June
mess. We couldn’t see any obvious damage on or along the highway in the
low-lying Rancheria area that was badly flooded then, however.
mostly overcast with several low areas near lakes/rivers that were
extremely foggy, as in the photo below:
We had to slow down several miles for those areas because visibility was
It’s a good thing we saw the spectacular Nisutlin Bay Bridge at the confluence
of the Nisutlin River and Teslin Bay in
June – it was totally socked in today!
The first picture
shows the bridge and surrounding area when we saw it in June. Even
though it was overcast the clouds were high enough then to see even the
summits of snow-covered mountains in the distance. We missed seeing a lot
of mountains on today's journey.
The very loooong Nisutlin Bay Bridge on June 12
This is what the bridge looked like today as we approached from the west:
At 1,917 feet, this is the longest span on the entire Alaska Highway. It
was a spectacular ride over the bridge in June when we could see the
water and surrounding landscape.
Today, however, it was a
little scary without being able to see anything around us or even to the
far end of the bridge. Call me paranoid, but who knows how well these bridges in
remote areas are built and maintained? Even in the U.S. many bridges are
aging and some have given out before being repaired sufficiently to hold all the
traffic that uses them.
The Nisutlin was one of many bridge crossings again today. Here's the colorful
approach this afternoon to the Rancheria River west of Watson Lake:
It sprinkled briefly a couple times and the sun almost came out a couple
times -- but not quite.
Some of the clouds were very low east of Whitehorse and through
the Cassiar Mountains, resulting in some interesting photos.
Clouds over Teslin Lake
When the clouds were high enough to see the tops of some of the mountains
we could see lots of terminal dust:
Temperatures ranged from the
upper 30s F. in Whitehorse in the morning to the low 50s F. in Watson Lake,
where it rained all afternoon and evening. <frown>
It must have continued raining through the night because there were lots
of new puddles in low places when we got up on Sunday morning.
TERRAIN: more mountainous as we headed southeast
through the Cassiar Range.
We crossed the Continental Divide today at KM 1120 at only 3,217 feet
elevation; shortly before that we hit 3,269 feet on our GPS, our
high spot for today. We drove most of the way between 2,400-2,800 feet elevation
The aspens/birches are still pretty green below 3,000 feet. There was
more red color on the ground at 3,000 feet and above. Even there, the
aspens/birches aren’t peaking yet.
There are some low red shrubs near the top of the
mountain in the distance.
There were some red plants right along the highway,
The whole Pacific Northwest is full of streams and lakes. So are the
sections of the Yukon and Brtish Columbia through which the Alaska
I showed a couple bridges above. Here's another river we crossed today::
Teslin River near Johnson's Corner
We passed by two long lakes today – Marsh Lake
and Teslin Lake:
Marsh Lake, between Whitehorse and Jake's Corner on
the Alaska Hwy.
It's sorta hard to tell where the clouds end and
the water in Teslin Lake begins.
Both lakes were on my side when Jim was driving today and I was able to
get some pictures of them this time. Teslin Lake is visible off and on
from the Alaska Hwy. for about 60 miles between Johnson's Corner and
OTHER RANDOM OBSERVATIONS
We saw more businesses today that are closed for the season. All three
private campgrounds in Whitehorse are still open, however, as are the two at Watson Lake.
We saw three runners with bib numbers heading to Whitehorse this
morning. They are part of a relay race that began in Skagway yesterday
and ends in Whitehorse. It reminded me of the N. Georgia relay I
ran long ago when I was still doing road races.
Santa decoration at Wye Lake in the town of Watson
There are several places along today’s segment of the highway where folks have written
their names in rocks along bare banks. Some are illegible, some more
recent. I didn't get pictures today or in June.
I wanted to take a short walk to
see Rancheria Falls at KM 1112 but missed seeing it in time to stop
today. It's in a recreational site with a gravel and boardwalk trail to
the falls. There is a large parking area with restrooms at the
trailhead. Not sure we could have seen the falls with all the low clouds
WATSON LAKE, WE REMEMBER YE WELL!
We reached today's destination, the town of Watson Lake, about 2:30 PM.
About 1600 people live here. Many more than that pass through on their
way to and from Alaska every summer.
It was kind of nice to be back in the town where we had to unexpectedly
cool our heels for five days in early
June after heavy rain and snowmelt in the mountains farther
west in the Yukon severely damaged several sections of the Alaska
Other than the unexpected delay, we had a pretty good time in Watson
Lake. We were extremely lucky to have our own RV and a campsite with
hookups during the delay. So many other people who were stopped there
were literally "stranded" for up to five days. The townspeople did all
they could to offer housing and food for the ones that didn't just turn
around and go back the way they'd come.
Wow. Watson Lake's main street (the Alaska Hwy.)
looks deserted now. During the road delay in June
the shoulders and two access roads were packed with
RVs, semi trucks, tour buses, and other vehicles.
Before choosing a campsite we got diesel ($1.409/liter) at Tempo Gas,
which owns Tag’s Campground behind the store.
We chose the
same back-in campsite that we had in June. The cost is the same --
$23.10 Canadian with tax for water and electricity. There is a dump station
if we need it. We have a slow WiFi signal and some TV stations.
We’re glad we stayed at Pioneer last night and Tag’s tonight in the cold
rain; having electric heat and WiFi is a lot more comfortable than not
having them. Boondocking is fun when it’s warm and dry but not when it’s
cold and wet.
HIKE AROUND WYE LAKE
When we were in Watson Lake in June I
had the opportunity to walk the trails around pretty Wye Lake with Cody
several times. The hike is about three miles out and back from our
The lake is the focal point of a nice city park:
After supper I decided to take Cody for a walk over there again. It was
raining off and on so I took an umbrella. Along the way we have to walk
around or through the popular signpost forest. Because of the rain I
didn't look real hard but I saw a few 2012 dates that had been added since June.
The woods and wetlands surrounding the lake look very different now in
It was still spring plant-wise when we were here in early June so there
were lots of new green leaves on plants and wildflowers in bloom.
There aren’t any flowers blooming now except a few dandelions in the
grass near the picnic/gazebo area.
At 2,277 feet elevation, the deciduous tree leaves are still mostly green
but there is a lot of orange and red on the forest floor:
It’s interesting to see the place in two distinct seasons – late spring
and early fall.
Next entry: Watson Lake, YT to Fort Nelson, BC
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil